The Sleeping Gypsy
Published by: Holiday House September 2016
Ages: 4 – 8 years
Theme: Wonder, Dreams, Art
Opening Lines: One night, Henri Rousseau dreamed of a girl walking alone across a desert.
Synopsis: (on amazon) A girl, alone in the desert, lies on the sand and sleeps. But she is not alone for long. A lizard, a rabbit, a turtle and other animals come to scrutinize her, and a lion leaps into the scene and claims her for his own.
A silhouette approaches from the distance. He introduces himself as Henri Rousseau, the dreamer of this dream, who plans to paint a picture of it. The animals pose for the artist but criticize his work with comments like “You’ve made my nose too big.” So the artist removes complainers one by one from the painting, until only the girl and the lion remain
Why I like this: Wow! This is truly a beautiful book. A story within a story – a dream within a dream. The characters in Henri Rousseau’s painting, The Sleeping Gypsy, produced in 1897, inspired Mordicai Gerstein to create an elegant, beautifully illustrated story about them. Mordical Gerstein imagines that the painter, Henri Rousseau, dreamt that he walked into a desert and came upon a number of wild animals and the girl sleeping with a mandolin by her side. How she got there? Why she is sleeping under the full moon in the desert? And what will the lion do, are questions answered by the imagination of Mordical’s version of events. The fact that Henri Rousseau is even there has meant he has stepped into his own painting. This is what Mordical imagines. Bizarre or amazing, it is all of those things and more. It sparks imagination and the concept of dreams realized. It highlights the fact that criticism cannot always be erased, but being critical of others can cause you to miss out on opportunities. What is left after all the animals have stated their thoughts is a beautiful illustration of a girl and a lion. A thought provoking and insightful story. Great for interesting children in fine art.
Resources/Findings: On this website is an audio of questions with answers and discussion by children regarding the painting… https://www.moma.org/collection/works/80172#
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